Up until now, the sheer extent of objection to the recent presidential decrees issued by Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi is still unknown. Yet it is very clear that such decrees have struck an extremely sensitive cord within Egyptian society, and have incited various political categories who fear the nightmare of dictatorship and the complete erosion of state institutions (which are already fragile). President Mohamed Mursi, when officially assuming his post following the heated and controversial presidential elections, was aware that he would have to face three major challenges in order to consolidate his position: The first challenge was to totally neutralize the armed forces and eliminate the senior leaders adhering to the old regime. The second challenge was to completely control the state-run media by planting new editors-in-chief with guaranteed loyalty to the new ruling trend. The third and the most complicated challenge, as became clear later on, was to seize control of the judiciary.
Historically and traditionally speaking, the judicial institute in Egypt has always been considered somewhat independent. Although bloated and affected by the country’s deteriorating conditions in general, the judiciary has most often been a voice of conscience and wisdom, even during the last years of Hosni Mubarak’s rule and specifically during the final parliamentary election of that era, which saw vote-rigging and fraud. In fact, the stances adopted by some judges represented the first step towards casting doubts over the Mubarak regime’s credibility and worthiness, and from there the situation developed rapidly.
Today, the Egyptian President’s decrees have clearly and openly targeted the judiciary, in a manner that has provoked much confrontation. Various other political powers – considered opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood – have now united in their confrontation against the President, and the Egyptian street has been ignited once more. The country has now reached something of an impasse, with both sides unwilling to compromise on their viewpoints, although such stubbornness and obstinacy will eventually cause great harm to the country. The situation has been further aggravated by the successive resignations submitted by a sizable number of presidential advisors, which is a catastrophic development for Mursi because it reflects the magnitude of objection evident within the President’s inner circle. This also means that the President’s recent decrees were not adequately researched or prepared in terms of their anticipated consequences, amid such a tense climate.
These controversial decrees were issued in an extremely volatile atmosphere, against the backdrop of the performance of Prime Minister Hesham Qandil and his government, which has been described as poor and inexperienced. Another somewhat harsh impression that is taking shape is that the ruling Muslim Brotherhood are undergoing a “learning curve” in governance; a stage which they are going through at the expense of the people and the nation. Indeed, this stage is extremely costly especially at the time when security conditions are worsening and the economy is stumbling, as can be seen in the figures released by both the private and public sectors.
Egypt desperately needs to reconcile with itself, and it must do so soon because the gap between different sectors of Egyptian society continues to widen and the street seems engulfed in a crisis. The President’s decrees give the impression of a move towards absolute autocracy, in the same manner adopted by the Free Officers who rose against the monarchy in 1952, and promised that curbing the constitution, eliminating freedoms and consolidating absolute power for the revolutionary leaders were just temporary measures. Yet the people soon discovered that this was a genuine nightmare that would continue for six decades.
Today, Egypt’s revolution remains incomplete, freedoms remain unfulfilled and conflicts still need to be reconciled. However, we must still pin our hopes on the existing civil society in Egypt; a society that has its personalities, groups and voices that can, one way or another, curb despotism and authoritarianism. Some may accuse me of being idealistic here, but I believe that what happened in the past will not be repeated.
Egypt needs to take difficult decisions that are based on the participation of everyone.